Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach and Dolphin Cruise
After a few days chilling in Auckland on arrival from Sydney and enjoying some of the awesome Irish Pubs in Auckland I headed north to Cape Reinga which is the northwesternmost point of the North Island of New Zealand.
Rich in Maori culture and for the Maori the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand, Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) marks the separation of the Tasman Sea (to the west) from the Pacific Ocean. The two seas meet in a spectacular swirl of currents and these turbulent waters are a special spiritual meeting place of the waters.
The Maori believed that the male sea Te Moana Tapokopoko a Tawhaki meets the female see Te Tai o Whitirela. The whirlpools where these currents clash are those that dance in the wake of a waka (canoe). They represent the coming together of male and female and the creation of new life. The view of the clashing seas can be seen as you walk along the path towards the lighthouse and is a spectacular sight, spiritual and relaxing.
I have always enjoyed learning more about different cultures and the Maori culture is fascinating. At the northernmost tip of the Cape is a gnarled pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old. According to Maori oral history, the spirits of deceased Maori leap from this tree into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.
In the distance a white beach can be seen which marks Kapo Wairu – Spirits Bay. Its name comes from the ancestor Tohe 700 years ago where he departed on a journey. The legend says that Tohe was old and longed to visit his daughter who lived far away. However, his people feared due the length of the journey he would never return. He said to them, ‘Kapohia taku wairua!’ that is if his wairua (spirit) passed that way on its final journey, his people should reach out and catch it, not let it go on.
Standing at the edge of the rocky cape is the Cape Reinga lighthouse which is one of the most important landmarks of Te Paki. In 1941 the glasshouse and light mechanism on top of the lighthouse were re-erected from the lighthouse’s original site on Motuopao Island. It was first used in May 1941 and is one of New Zealand’s iconic landmarks standing 10m in height and 165m above sea level. The Cape Reinga light today is electric with the last lighthouse keeper being withdrawn in 1987 as the lighthouse is now managed remotely in Wellington. It has a 1000-watt light bulb and the light can be seen from 49km away and is often the first light in New Zealand that sailors see.
At the base of the lighthouse is a signpost showing the distance from Cape Reinga to locations across the world – I was a long way from home! London alone was 18,029km away! I was in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand too! It was interesting to see how far away other places in the world were too and this was one of many unique photo opportunities I took advantage of when visiting Cape Reinga.
Sand surfing at Ninety Mile Beach
After a spiritual morning learning about the Maori culture’s beliefs at Cape Reinga we were ready for some adrenaline-fuelled sand surfing at Te Paki Stream Sand Dunes at Ninety-Mile Beach which is south of Cape Reinga. Te Paki is a 10km long by 1km wide strip of beautiful sand dunes. Originally, the sand dunes were their own island but over millions of years, the sand has built up due to volcanic activity elsewhere in New Zealand creating these amazing sand dunes. The dunes are the highest in the southern hemisphere reaching 150 metres in height with a gorgeous view from the top. Keep your eyes open for native birds, lizards, and fish.
Sand surfing or sandboarding involved climbing to what seemed like the Mount Everest of sand dunes, which were slippery and hot and then riding a board (which you can hire when you are there) across the sandy slope! The extreme sandy slopes and special-made boards conspire so you hurtle down the slope at an alarming speed! As a tourist I just went down headfirst on my belly clutching the boogie board, but the pros go down the slope standing up with their feet strapped into a proper sand board. I was more than happy going down the slope with my belly on the board. It was fast and furious and a lot of fun! You somehow manage to get sand everywhere – including in your ears! When I got to the bottom, I climbed the big sand dune again to have another go. I think I managed to go down about five times while I was there, each time trying to find a slightly steeper gradient so that I would hurtle down faster than the time before! It was a lot of fun and there was also time to race the other people on my tour and get some photos racing down the slope!
Bay of Islands
After an amazing experience whale watching in Brisbane, I was excited to hop on a dolphin watching cruise of the Bay of Islands. I had only ever seen dolphins in a zoo or sea life aquarium before the trip and I was excited and hoping to get a good look at the dolphins in the wild. The whales in Brisbane were quite far away from the boat so it was difficult to get a good photograph of the whales. However, I was in for a treat on the dolphin cruise!
We boarded the catamaran Dolphin Seeker in Paihia and enjoyed the chilled out three-hour cruise around the islands. Gliding through the islands along the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula to Cape Brett where there is an historic light house overlooking Piercy Island/Motukokako which is also known as the ‘Hole in the Rock.’ New Zealand has a rich Maori culture and the ‘Hole in the Rock’ is significant. It is believed, according to Maori legends that before departing for battle Maori warriors would paddle through the hole in their canoes. Drops of water falling upon the warrior were a good omen for the fate of the warrior in the future battle. Maori war canoes (Waka Taua) are amongst the most impressive canoes ever built. They are traditionally built from a single kauri or totara tree making the canoe almost 25 metres in length and took two or more years to complete.
The boat managed to squeeze through the ‘Hole in the Rock’ and according to some of the passengers we did get a little drip! The coastline was beautiful on a stunning day and it really made you want to live on your own desert island!
As the Dolphin Cruiser was licenced by the Department of Conservation it was possible to see the dolphin’s close-up. In fact, some of the dolphins came right up to the boat and were swimming nearby. We were told we could not swim with them as they had their young with them. It was a fascinating experience and was great to see wild dolphins so close. Around New Zealand’s coastline there are nine species of dolphin with bottlenose, common dolphins and orcas being visible around the Bay of Islands. On the day of the cruise we witnessed common dolphins diving in and out of the water playing and interacting with the boat. Some of them were swimming alongside the boat and looked pretty cheeky! They really are beautiful creatures and it was fantastic to see them up close and personal in the wild.
All in all, I had a dream start to my trip in New Zealand visiting the spiritual Cape Reinga, zooming down the sand dunes sand surfing and being up close and personal with the dolphins on the Dolphin Seeker Cruise!